Economy Minister Gordon Lyons has announced an additional Pound 11.5 million funding package to support the further recovery of the tourism industry across Northern Ireland.
The funding package will assist the tourism industry in dealing with not only the knock-on effects of the pandemic but also the new challenges of soaring energy bills, rising food and labour costs all of which have begun to have an adverse impact on the industry.
The Minister said: "I am delighted to announce this significant funding package to support the tourism industry in the face of the crisis that it is presently facing.
"The industry remains one of the largest employers in the local economy employing almost 1 in 10 of the working population with 70% of those jobs being outside of Belfast.
"This package of support will drive much needed additional business through the doors of tourism and hospitality providers outside of the summer season and reduce the risk of job losses in the sector.
"The tourism industry employs people from all sections of society, providing a range of diverse employment opportunities for young people, many of whom have not had the benefit of a university education, and those seeking to return to work. It is vital therefore that we do all that we can to help the industry to weather the cost of living crisis."
The wide-ranging package of support will include an extension to the Covid Kick-Start Programme to assist tourism businesses to manage their cost base and boost their productivity and competitiveness.
The funding will allow Tourism NI and Tourism Ireland to respond to the industry's call for additional marketing and promotional activity over the autumn, Christmas and spring both domestically and in close to home markets in the Republic of Ireland, Great Britain and Western Europe.
Tourism NI's Partnership Marketing Fund will be increased to allow further support to be made available to tourism businesses to undertake their own sales and marketing activity to obtain additional bookings from these markets between now and the end of March.
In welcoming the additional funding Tourism NI Chief Executive, John McGrillen said: "This substantial funding package comes at this very critical juncture for our industry.
"Having survived the Covid pandemic the resilience of our tourism and hospitality businesses is being tested like never before. The next six months is going to be very challenging and this funding package will allow us and our partners to bring in additional business from both the domestic and Republic of Ireland markets at a time when it is needed most.
"I am pleased that we will also be able to continue to support tourism businesses by extending our successful Enterprise Development and Kickstart Programmes and to continue to provide marketing support to accommodation providers and visitor attractions throughout autumn and spring."
Siobhan McManamy, Acting Chief Executive of Tourism Ireland, added: "Today's announcement is good news for the tourism industry across Northern Ireland. This additional funding will allow Tourism Ireland to 'put our best foot forward' for 2023 and roll out a really strong programme of promotions for Northern Ireland in GB and Mainland Europe at the beginning of next year. Tourism Ireland will be pulling out all the stops to drive as much business as possible to Northern Ireland in 2023 and beyond."
The Minister also announced that Pound 300k will be provided to Visit Belfast to help secure lucrative corporate and conference business which will bring much needed additional income to the accommodation and hospitality sectors not just in Belfast but across Northern Ireland.
"As I have said before the importance of business events to our tourism economy should not be underestimated and we need to ensure that we are in the best possible position to compete for a greater share of this lucrative sector in the future. This funding will allow us to take further steps towards achieving that aim."